I was very fortunate to be taught art at school by a sculptor from the Royal College of Art, who had specialised in traditional techniques like wood and stone carving, moulding and casting and hand building in clay and plaster
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that my work since has been led by materials and process.
This made me particularly unfashionable at St Martins, where the mantra was ‘form is the only thing that matters – (provided it’s made of cor-ten steel)’. My view was that while steel was certainly very suitable for certain applications, it was very limiting to assume that it was the best choice for everything – and downright blinkered to claim that it was the best and only material to express contemporary sculpture.
In hindsight, it appears that my views were conservative considering Damian Hirst was already making sculpture out of dead cows at Goldsmith’s, just a few miles away, but at the time, any interest in materials suggested ‘craft’, which apparently had no place in ‘fine’ art.
My interest in materials hasn’t progressed to dead cows yet, but over the years I have made sculpture from plastics, concrete, glass, plaster, ceramics, fabrics, bronze, wood, stone – and just about anything interesting that I have found lying about.
It fascinates me how often random selections of things and materials can come together to form something which then appears to be a homogeneous whole.
It’s exactly what they were telling me at St Martin’s, of course: if you select the right bits of scrap metal and arrange them in the ‘right’ order, suddenly you have a priceless artwork in the Hayward Gallery.
I just prefer to do it with lots of different materials; I think they make the dialogue richer.